A decorated Naval aviator completed his final flight on February 17, 2020. Van Hough (VQ) was born January 30, 1934, in Fort Myers, FL. He was predeceased by his parents Scott and Hester Hough and his sister Tess Pollock. Van is survived by his brother Scott Hough of Reston, VA; three daughters: Lee (Rob) Merrill of Asheville, NC, Patty (Marty) Voelker of East Hampton, CT, and Dawn (Jen) Hough of New Milford, CT. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Chris, Jacqui (David), Jessica, James, and Megan, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
A multi-sport athlete, VQ attended high school in Fort Myers where his skill and dedication led to a football scholarship at West Virginia University. After a year at WVU, he transferred to the University of Florida where he earned a bachelors degree in agriculture. Upon graduation in 1956, VQ attended Naval officer candidate school and subsequently became a flight instructor and standardization inspector on the Admiral’s staff in Pensacola. A gifted aviator, he was a recipient of the prestigious “Top Gun” award.
Van (Scooter) was an accomplished Navy attack fighter pilot with over 700 carrier landings and innumerable combat missions in the skies above Vietnam. As a testament to his enduring tenacity and fighting spirit, after ejecting from his burning A-4 Skyhawk, VQ survived for many hours evading capture behind enemy lines in the jungles of North Vietnam before being rescued. He was later awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the incident.
VQ completed the extensive application process, including obtaining the required military and government nominations, and was accepted to the Blue Angels program. Due to the nearly year-long travel and exhibition schedule, Van opted instead to leave the Navy and begin his civilian piloting career so that he could spend more time with his family.
In 1968 Van moved to the northeast, eventually settling in New Milford, CT, and flying for United Airlines out of LaGuardia Airport. In 1981, he relocated to Fort Collins, CO and was based out of Denver until his retirement from United as a 737 captain in 1994. He then moved to Mars Hill, NC and later lived in Asheville, NC. In 1994, VQ became an inaugural inductee into his high school athletic hall of fame for his exceptional achievements as a star running back for the Ft. Myers Green Wave.
Throughout his life, Van put his agricultural training to good use creating and maintaining bountiful vegetable gardens, planting trees, and expertly managing the landscape of his properties. He enjoyed nature and the outdoors, especially bear hunting, bird-watching and observing local wildlife. In his youth he enjoyed spearfishing the waters of Florida and became an experienced horseman working his uncle’s ranch. VQ traveled much of the world, but one of his favorite treks was a memorable bear hunting trip with his lifelong friend, Ed Wilson. He proudly displayed a black bear skin rug from that adventure for the rest of his days.
Van also loved to sing and dance, with or without a partner. During Naval flight training, he earned the call sign “Smokey” after singing “On Top of Old Smokey” during many of the well-earned evenings off with members of his squadron. Ever the entertainer, he was quick to kick up his heels and “cut a rug” when the music started. He also loved playing the banjo and harmonica to the delight of anyone present. Without missing a beat, he continued to entertain many friends at his retirement home and could often be spotted dancing— simply to put a smile on observers’ faces.
“Pop Pop” to his beloved grandchildren, he genuinely enjoyed following their numerous activities in school, sports, and the community, and loved sharing their accomplishments with everyone. VQ’s wit and mischievous smile will be missed by all who had the pleasure to know him.
A celebration of VQ’s life will be held Friday, March 20, 2020, at 3:30 PM at Central United Methodist Church, 27 Church Street, Asheville, NC, 28801. Condolences can be sent to the family at Asheville Area Alternative Services, https://www.ashevilleareaalternative.com/. VQ held a special place in the hearts of the caregivers at his Harmony Memory Care home. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Memory Care (Asheville) https://memorycare.org/ or Four Seasons Hospice https://www.fourseasonsfdn.org/memorial-gift/ .
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